I have so much to say about my decision to not do radiation that I don’t even know where to begin. What I know definitively is that the day I made the choice to forego it was one of the best days I’ve had since this whole cancer thing started.
Making decisions about cancer treatment is a huge mindf#$%, it’s a raging battle between cultures and philosophies and women are maimed and killed on all sides. You want to believe the inner voice, the wise one that guides your body in healing itself, but there is a $5 billion radiation industry shouting quite a bit louder through the mouths of people you wish you could trust, making it hard to hear yourself think.
I was able to make the decision I did because I had the space and personal foundation to reckon with death. I climbed a mountain and made my peace with choosing to live while accepting the cutting ordinariness and eventuality of dying. I saw a truth that I was only later able to put into words – for me, using radiation to reduce the statistical risk of death was not worth the burns to my lungs and heart that could prevent me from doing the very things that make me feel alive. People who hang out in the alpine, on searingly chilly, polar blue days, can probably relate to the perspective, the resonant knowing, that comes with disconnecting from Amurrka and letting the icy air in your lungs reconnect you to what matters.
Back in Seattle, walking the halls of the hospital, my head exploded with the statistics the oncologists fed me, and the dizzying percentages I stayed up late reading about in the published literature. Everything was about reducing my risk of dying and accepting unknown risks of side effects that no one really studies or talks about. None of the comparative studies on radiation tracked women’s lifestyle choices or shifts and so it was hard for me to trust them. I read that the series of holistic treatments I am undergoing – all manner of things from massive stress reduction to turkey tail mushrooms to crazy amounts of daily vegetables – can bump our odds 25%, but there’s nothing that “proves” that.
I went as far as getting marked up for radiation and CT scanned, watched the laser’s crosshairs match the sharpie lines on my goose bumped skin, locking me in. I walked with friends through Seattle’s autumn forests and gardens and felt their loving support for any choice I made. And then, after a few long nights of second-guessing, I just knew and I let myself say it. I called my radiation oncologist and thanked her for her care and said I’m not coming back.
I am privileged to have the inclination and resources to explore holistic medicine and learn more about all the things I can do to prevent my cancer from growing again that do not involve burning my breast, lung, and heart with radiation. I am creating a holistic healing plan that makes me cry with how deeply it is shifting my life, a “treatment” with the side effect of cleansing and purifying every aspect of how I live.
Thanks so much for all the love and support you’ve all sent my way during this time. It’s magical, it heals, it’s profound, and the gratitude I feel for it is like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
I’ll let you know how it goes!